ITHACA, N.Y. — The Village Solars apartment complex is getting a size boost. The Lucente family, a longtime local developer and owner of Lifestyle Properties, is seeking to an additional 70 units in revisions to its massive multi-phase project on the 1000 Block of Warren Road.
When initially approved, the project was approved for 174 units in 13 buildings. Later revisions brought that number to the currently approved total of 12 buildings, and then 207 units – two buildings were merged into one larger building, and then larger three-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments were replaced with 400 and 500 SF micro units. The overall square footage of the buildings stayed nearly the same, but the units were split up. Eight buildings and 121 units have been already built or are finishing construction this year.
In documents filed with the town of Lansing last week and this week, the project seeks to add ten new buildings over the next five years. Three of them were previously planned for the north end of the property, but will be re-oriented to better take advantage of passive solar. A fourth building will host a community center with a small retail component and twenty apartments.
Along with those four all-new buildings, the Lucentes plan to demolish six existing two-story apartment buildings with 56 units, built from the late 1960s through the 1970s. On their former footprints they would build new three-story apartment buildings, similar to those already built. These six buildings would total 126 units. The Lucentes cite high maintenance and energy costs, as well as an outdated product in their reasons to pursue demolition.
The math works out to a planned total of 333 new apartments in the complex, but with the removal of 56 existing units, the number drops to 277 apartments. Therefore, the net gain by the latest proposed changes is 70 units.
The Village Solars are zoned under a “Planned Development Area” (PDA), which many local towns and cities use as a town-approved “make your own zoning”, presuming it’s something that the town really wants, but the existing zoning doesn’t accommodate. As a result, the additional units are proposed as a PDA amendment, which the Lansing town board can decide whether or not to approve with the right paperwork (environmental assessment, plus a letter stating why the amendment is requested) and a single hearing. As part of the amendment, the total number of units permitted in all existing and future phases of the Village Solars will grow from 506 to 576 apartments.
As they’ve done for the past few years, the new apartments would be built out in phases – the site plan application says they expect to take 4.5 years to erect the next ten buildings.
It’s no secret that although Lansing is actively trying to encourage development to shore up its tax base as the AES Cayuga power plant devaluation takes it toll. Lansing Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne recently accused Tompkins County of trying to sabotage the town’s finances by preventing the West Dryden natural gas pipeline. The Village Solars use electric heat pumps, so they are not dependent on the pipeline. The Village Solars are also in one of the few parts of Lansing town served by sewer, which allows for higher-density development. Plans are in the works for another sewer line that could serve another 220 housing units between Triphammer Road and East Shore Road.